PURCHASE, N.Y. -- More than 400 students and teachers from 30 area high schools spent Thursday promoting human rights awareness at the 15th annual Human Rights Institute for High School Student Leaders at Manhattanville College in Purchase.
The all-day event, sponsored by the Holocaust & Human Rights Education Center, opened with an address by keynote speaker Judy Altmann, a survivor of the Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen death camps. In addition, Judith Johnson, a member of the state Board of Regents in charge of Westchester and Lower Hudson Valley schools, spoke about human rights and the Holocaust. Johnson is the first African-American honored with the state School Superintendent of the Year award.
Students from high schools in Westchester and Putnam counties in New York and Fairfield County, Conn., participated in 20 workshops that examined current human rights issues, including child labor, human trafficking, Islamophobia, economic inequality, Sharia Law, justification of women’s enslavement, educating young women in poor countries and LGBTQIA.
“The Human Rights Institute for High School Student Leaders encourages students to speak up and act against all forms of bigotry and prejudice,” says Julie Scallero, co-director of education for the Holocaust & Human Rights Education Center, the White Plains-based group that organized the event. “Student leaders will develop specific human rights-oriented social action projects for their schools and communities that will be held in conjunction with the annual Upstanders’ Week in May."
During the event, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino presented a proclamation to Holocaust & Human Right Education Center Executive Director Millie Jasper announcing Upstanders’ Week, May 23-27, and thanked the student leaders.
"You have inspired us all to become 'upstanders' – to encourage activism and awareness – and you have shown us how to take an active approach in changing the world," Astorino said.
The student participants are going back to their schools to implement human rights awareness projects ranging from fairs to fundraisers to make their fellow students and their home communities more aware of the social issues that are impacting our world.